Sedimentary gemstones like opal, malachite, and azurite are formed when water and minerals mix on the Earth’s surface and seep into cracks.
Opals are known worldwide for their beautiful displays of color, covering nearly every color of the human visual spectrum. As unique and stunning as these gems are, the “Rainbow Tree,” a Bolder Opal from Queensland, Australia, is a sight to behold.
Sedimentary gemstones like opal, malachite, and azurite are formed when water and minerals mix on the Earth’s surface, then seep down into cracks and cavities depositing layers of minerals. Opal is formed with water and silica and as the solution settles in a cavity, microscopic spheres of silica stack on top of each other. This is how the Rainbow Tree was created.
The water and silica mix is perfect for filling indented shapes created by just about anything, including fossilized plant and animal remains. Woodgrain or timber cells were replaced by opal over millions of years. Finding an opalized wood replacement is rare, even in Australia’s opal fields.
It’s hard to imagine that millions of years ago Australia’s opal fields were covered in a shallow sea where dinosaurs roamed and ancient reptiles swam. The Australian Opal Centre is the custodian of an incredible collection of the 100 million-year-old fossils from the Early Cretaceous period, now Australian National Treasures, and among the most beautiful and valuable opalized fossils in the world.
As with most gemstones, the price of opals depends on the type, quality, size, and intensity of color. Darker opals with stronger colors are not only more expensive because of their color but also because they are more difficult and expensive to find.
Opal is used in jewelry and the finest examples were often gifted to royalty, such as the Andamooka Opal, gifted to Queen Elizabeth II, and The Burning of Troy, the first opal to be named (but which is now lost), a gift from Napoleon I of France to Joséphine de Beauharnais.
In the Middle Ages, because of the opal’s color spectrum, it was prized as a good luck talisman, possessing all the virtues of each gemstone color represented within the opal. During that time, women with lighter hair believed wearing opal would prevent hair loss and maintain the color of their hair. However, some cultures believed it was bad luck and perceived opals as the “evil eye.”
Often believed to have magical and healing powers, opal is still used today in natural therapies like massage or reiki by placing them on the body or around the person to help balance the energy systems and meridians of individuals.
Many believe in the energy of the opal’s ability to help with infections, fevers, PMS, and during birthing. When holding an opal, you may feel its subtle energy which is said to assist you in drawing on your own strength.
Opal is also said to ward off bad dreams when placed under the pillow, to aid creativity and self-expression, and for increasing self-worth and self-esteem. Even those who don’t believe any of it will likely agree that holding an opal in the light and seeing the beautiful colors at play is like having magic in your hand.
Opal is the birthstone for those born in the month of October and is also a suitable gift for the 14th anniversary of marriage.